As I mentioned last month here, our next meeting of the ARRT Book Club Study is today and we are discussing The Yiddish Policemen’s Union.
Today I want to touch on a few issues regarding this meeting today and very little of it has to do with the book at hand. Rather, I thought I would use this opportunity to write about a few different things dealing with how and why we run the Book Club Study program.
But first, I want to mention how much fun re-reading this book was for me. This was one of the best books I read in 2007! I listened to it this time to freshen up my memory, but as I did, I was trying to think back to the person I was when I read this book ten years ago. Honestly it seems like a lifetime ago-- for me and for the world and for our country.
Although I did not write up a new list of readalikes for this discussion, I did run a search of the blog to see when and where I used this Chabon novel as a readalike since 2007. You can click here to see all of the posts, but some titles that appeared were the Last Detective series by Ben Winters, The City and the City by China Mieville, and Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem. Click through for details on all of those titles.
Now back to the ARRT Book Club Study in general.
First of all, we run this book club study as both a training and a support group for book discussion leaders. I feel very strongly that book club leaders need a place where they can not only get a chance to be a book club participant but also, have a place where they have a chance to complain and commiserate about their groups. For a more nuanced explanation of this point, click here to read my article on the topic from Booklist from December 2015.
But second, and more importantly, this group is my baby. I took our old, flagging, literary book discussion program and, with the help and support of the entire Steering Committee, not only completely changed what we were doing, but also reinvigorated it in the process. It has been rewarding and fun...
...but, now that I have done all the work and feel ownership of the program, I think it is the perfect time to let it go.
WHAT?!? I know that is what many of you are thinking right now. But hear me out.
I have loved creating this new discussion group about book discussion groups, but I also know that the energy I have expended is running low. I have plenty of people here in the organization who are hungry to take over what I revamped and run with it in their own direction. This is also paired with the fact that we are now getting a good core group that makes it to every meeting with a nice rotation of new people coming in and out.
Over the rest of this year, I will be slowly handing off the administrative duties of the Book Club Study to Elizabeth, a fellow Steering Committee member and a former student. She is more than ready to be in charge and I will happily step aside and be her #2. Not only does the organization need me to pass on this program which I revived to someone else, but I need it too. I am getting too busy to run this and it needs the attention it deserves. It is in good hands, yes, but Elizabeth will also be able to lead us into the future. My time to lead is past; I need to step aside.
Like I said, this post is only tangentially about our discussion today, but having the discussion means we will soon have notes on both the discussion of the book and the leadership discussion topic. I will let you know here on the blog when those are live.
But I think this point of letting things go once we get them off the ground is one which many of us need to tackle. I am hoping that my experience will help others to see the good that would come from cross training at a minimum, but also letting go and allowing others to take “your” thing to new places. Because it’s actually not yours, even if it feels that way, it belongs to everyone for whom you created it.
I will still be a member of the Book Club Study for the foreseeable future, and I will continue to update this blog with news and notes, but at least for the next few months, I will also report on the transition. I will be frank and honest about my feelings and actions. I hope it helps others both with their book groups and with any other programs they may want [or need] to hand off.
But until then, I should tell you that the next discussion will be: Dream Land: The True Tale of America's Opiate Epidemic by Sam Quinones Monday, August 7th from 2-4 pm at Deerfield Public Library and the leadership topic will be about how leading a book discussion on nonfiction is different from fiction.
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